Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Photo Credit:
The true story of my whirlwind rebound relationship.

Disclaimer: all names have been changed to protect those involved.

Also, If you haven’t read the story of my short-lived engagement, I suggest you read it here before you continue.

Weddings are expensive.

First there’s the dress which, even if you manage to find the perfect dress on sale (or in a thrift store), will require numerous, costly fittings and proper undergarments that scratch your skin and aren’t the least bit comfortable. Then, there’s the shoes, and the veil, and all those little accessories that your mother will swear you just can’t get married without. And we mustn’t forget the bridesmaids either. Their dresses, fittings, and hairstyles must all coordinate and be paid for by you. The ringbearer and flower girl as well.

And of course, this is still excluding the price of the venue. A wedding requires magic, and magic is far from free. To claim and transform a simple space into a magical wonderland of marital love, well, it might as well cost your arm. Oh, and all the memories since you were three.

Then there’s still a meal plan to be sorted out that won’t leave the guests feeling sick, seat arrangements to choose, color schemes, lighting, music, deejays, diamond rings…

The list could stretch out to infinity, depending on a bride’s taste (or in my case, the bride’s family), but the bottom line is that the price of a wedding will cost a life’s worth of savings if you’re lucky, your sanity if you aren’t careful, and your marriage if you let the details mask the love, the very reason for the ceremony at all.

A wedding is very expensive indeed. But what is the cost for canceling a wedding? A broken engagement?

I learned the answer to this the hard way.

My engagement was broken the day before the planned wedding was to take place. The price of a wedding that never happened had already been paid, and I was left with the cost of the broken pieces.

And like a fugitive running from the cost of bail, I ran.

I ran right into the hopeless arms of Rush.

Rush was a few years older than me, but it’s fair to say when it came to maturity, we were about the same age. Rush was a tall, bearded man of many talents. He was a former car salesman, international video game designer, and aspiring writer/comedian who frequently blamed his absent father and his religious step-father for his lack of ambition, his raging drug addiction, and the reason he never felt guilty for having his mother pay all his bills.

But if you were to ask me, I would say his most attractive quality (other than his beer gut and pot-breath, a truly charming combination) was the fact that he had his own place. He had a space in this world where he made all the rules. And the best part? He was willing to let me into it.

I started out small, sneaky girl that I am. I would stay over only a few nights a week, claiming my house was much too loud for me to have any hope of sleep. The reality, of course, was that I couldn’t stand the silence. 

Since my unexpected split with the fiancé my family had come to love as one of their own, the tension in the house had become suffocating. If sides were to be chosen, my family had made it clear whose side they were on, and it wasn’t mine. I picked up extra shifts at Stripes just to avoid going home.

Several of those extra shifts belonged to Rush. He had taken the job because it paid well. It was something temporary that managed to feed his two addictions exceptionally well: marijuana and video games. Unfortunately, his lack of enthusiasm toward the job affected his work ethic, and our boss was all too happy to give his shifts to me.

At first, my relationship with Rush was nothing more than friendly. We talked briefly during our occasional shift changes, but it wasn’t until I made a middle-of-the-night coffee run while he was working that our professional friendliness turned into something more. My middle-of-the-night coffee run turned into a two hour conversation, and I left as the sun was rising with a phone number and a plan.

It was much too soon for me to start a new relationship, I knew that. Barely a week had passed since my broken engagement, and I hadn’t even had time to really cry over it. I was still trying to figure out how I could possibly separate from my fiancé. He was already stationed upstate, but there was still so much he had left behind, literally and metaphorically. I had blocked his number to keep from calling him because I knew the sound of his voice would send me running back. I was still wearing his t-shirts to bed, and cuddling with the teddy bear spritzed with his cologne. Obviously, any relationship I entered would be nothing more than a rebound.

But still, I rushed into a rebound relationship with Rush as if it was the only thing that could save my life. I conveniently left out the details of my broken engagement, and I made up story-worthy excuses for all the problems in my life. When I was experiencing financial woes due to the separation of my bank account from the joint account I had been sharing with my fiancee, I blamed my grandparents and their disapproval with my refusal to go to college. And when I was sobbing into his pillow in the middle of the night after seeing my fiancé for the first time since our split, I blamed it on a failed attempt to nail a literary agent I claimed to have a meeting with.

I created an entire lie of a life with Rush to escape my reality because it was easier to deal with. Rush was too self-involved to notice my deceit. As long as I paid his bills whenever I could, slept with him when he had the energy, and put food on the table, he barely noticed me at all. He wound up quitting his job at Stripes so he could fully dedicate his time to his true calling: playing video games in his underwear, partying with his friends, and inviting his drug dealer over for dinner whenever he was running low on the good stuff.

In retrospect, I was probably half-insane to think this was a fair deal of a relationship. But escaping reality was my top priority, and Rush provided everything I needed to live in my self-created fantasy world.

By the time I came to my senses, three months had passed.

It was December before reality sank in. 

To my surprise, the relationship had survived Christmas (though barely). Family holidays are something I hold very dear, and I’ve learned my relationships start to break down after I see the way my relationship fits into these incredibly important family gatherings. I had spent Thanksgiving with Rush’s family, a family full of kind and incredibly successful people, and I enjoyed my time there, mostly because my own family’s Thanksgiving had been cancelled due to a bout of family-wide food poisoning I had thankfully been spared.

Christmas, however, presented some trouble. We spent the first half of Christmas Eve with his family, opening gifts, and talking over a homecooked meal. I sensed he was a little bit resentful that I cut his family tradition short to travel to Austin to celebrate the traditional holiday with my family, though since I had sacrificed Thanksgiving, I didn’t see this being a problem.

But it was.

We fought the entire time. He didn’t feel like he fit in with my family, was accused of stealing my recovering Grandfather’s (he had suffered from a mild stroke a month before) pain medication, and couldn’t quite leave his family tradition behind. The next day, he insisted we go see a movie Christmas evening because that’s what he was “used to doing”, and we fought the whole way to a theater that wound up being shut down.

But somehow, we made it through the disaster of a holiday. I don’t remember why I forgave him, but it probably had something to do with his mother. She would come visit me some mornings while I was working my shift and Stripes and apologize for his behavior.

“You’re such a blessing in his life, Kayla.” She’d tell me as she paid for her cup of coffee. “I just hope you’ll stick with him. He’s going through a really rough phase right now. He really needs you. I think you can really help him through this.”

She knew when we were fighting because I would stop paying the bills, and he would call her for money. And I’d eat up her excuses, I’d eat up all the guilt, and wind up apologizing to Rush for ever being upset with him, begging for his forgiveness like I was the one in the wrong.

Until reality finally sank in.

It came with a sinking realization that I might lose the only piece of my life I had been holding on to: Trixy. She was a gift from my parents to celebrate my high school graduation. My former fiancee had picked her out, and driven my mother and I all the way to San Antonio and back just to make her a part of the family. She’s the extension of me I refuse to separate from. Leaving the house, even now, I experience an intense form of separation anxiety.

And one night I almost lost her.

It wasn’t entirely his fault, in all honesty. Rush, I don’t believe, ever would have given her the funny-tasting, crushed leaves if he knew the drug would harm her. And though I was infuriated at his carelessness when he knew how much I disapproved of his drug habit, I wasn’t worried either.

Until she couldn’t move.

She lost the ability to even lift her floppy ears so of course I panicked, and burst into tears. 

“Calm down!” Rush demanded. “She’s fine! She’s just stoned!”


Any tension, any reservations I had with my parents, didn’t matter that day. I wrapped Trixy in a blanket and asked my mom to come pick me up and take us to the vet. I would have driven myself, but I had Trixy crushed against my chest, right near my heart, and I wasn’t going to let her go. Not even for the fifteen minutes it would take to drive to the vet.

And despite the lack of communication, despite all the things we felt and didn’t say, despite the rift that had damaged our relationship, my mother came to my rescue that night. And together, we entered reality and restored Trixy to safety.

I moved out of Rush’s apartment that night. I carried my belongings to my car in shifts, by myself, with tears streaming down my cheeks as Rush followed me around so he could scream at me for leaving.

“Nobody will ever love you.” He said. “You’re making a mistake.” and “You think you’re so grown up, but you’re still just a kid. A little baby who cries about her little baby puppy when she gets sick. I don’t know what I was thinking dating a little baby like you.”

At one point, he pushed me onto the bed and shouted “You’re not leaving! You can’t leave me! You’re making a big deal out of nothing! Just go to sleep right now and you’ll see, everything will be fine in the morning.”

I stayed on the bed for a moment, and maybe he recognized the fear on my face, or maybe the reality of the situation finally hit him, but he immediately left the room. I grabbed whatever was left that I could carry, and left as fast as I could.

A week later I went back to retrieve a few more belongings I had left during my rush to leave. I took Trixy with me because I had begun to take her everywhere. The first thing he did when I walked into the apartment was kiss me, and take Trixy in one swift movement. Like it was just another normal day, and I was returning home from work.

“I’m sorry.” He said. “Please forgive me. I think we can work this out.”

“No.” I said. “I just came for the stuff I left.”

“Fine.” He said, dropping Trixy on the floor. “Take your stupid shit. It’s on the bed.”
I quickly grabbed my stuff, not even checking to make sure everything was in there, and began walking to the car. Trixy followed me, but so did Rush. He swooped Trixy back up in his arms as I was putting all the stuff in the car. When I turned to take Trixy from him, he refused to give her to me.

“No.” He said. “She loves me. She wants to stay with me.”

“You’re acting like a child.” I said. “Give her back. She’s mine.”

I tried to pull her out of his arms, but he squeezed her so tight that she squealed in pain, so I stopped and began to cry.

“Please just give her back. Please don’t hurt her.”

“I’m the child?” He said. “Look at you.”

He proceeded to tell me how his roommate and his girlfriend (two people in their thirties who I actually thought were pretty cool, despite their Peter Pan philosophy of life) both told him how our breakup was a good thing for him because he didn’t need to be “babysitting.”

“You’re so naive.” He said. “You’re such a child. And you know what? I don’t need you in my life. Take your stupid dog and call me when you grow up.”

He shoved Trixy into my arms and stomped back into the house like a two-year old throwing a tantrum. I chuckled at the irony of the situation. He was in his mid-twenties and behaving like a child, but somehow I was the naive little girl?

By the time I got home, I was furious. How dare he say I was the child! How dare he call me naive! I ran up to my room and called him so I could yell at him for his cruelty. My mother had to come to my rescue again. She came into my room, and gave me a disapproving look until I hung up the phone.

“Don’t talk to him.” She said. “Ever. Again. Stop torturing yourself. He’s not going to realize how shitty he is, and change. He’s not going to apologize for being a shitty person. You need to let it go.”

And she was right. 

I needed to let it go.

Because in all honesty, I was holding on because I had yet to deal with my broken engagement. I was still in denial of how I felt about the split nobody saw coming, and especially of how I felt about the way my family had handled it. Blaming me. Shaming me. Shutting me out.

Dealing with Rush, rushing into a rebound relationship, was the perfect distraction. 

It would take time and a couple stories worth of experiences before I would learn how to let go completely, but in those short few months with Rush, I was still able to learn a valuable lesson about letting go.

We think that rebounding is the perfect solution to dealing with a breakup. It’s the most common advice we receive. 

“Just find somebody else.” We’re told. “It doesn’t have to be serious.”

But the reality is that it’s always serious. The people we’re rebounding with have lives, and feelings, and issues of their own. It’s what makes a rebound relationship the perfect distraction. The toxicity and drama that results will take up so much physical and emotional energy that we simply won’t have the time to address our real issues, our real feelings. And in the end, when we’re standing in the emotional destruction, we’ll have someone else to blame.

I can’t blame Rush for the way he behaved in our destructive relationship. I knew exactly what I was getting myself in to. Our relationship was nothing but a temporary escape, a physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining experience that served it’s purpose successfully. My relationship with Rush left absolutely no time to grieve over the love I had lost.

But feelings don’t go away. They grow. The more time we spend denying them, the bigger, harsher, and more intense they become. The only way to truly make our feelings disappear is to let it out. Let everything we’re feeling show.

Only then can we truly, and completely let it go, let everything go.

Feelings can’t be rushed. So the next time you find yourself facing feelings you’d rather not feel, remember this: The time it takes to let it all out depends on the time we spent running away or hiding from our feelings. The sooner you let it out, the sooner you let it go.

Don’t rush to escape.

Rush to feel.

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